Rodney Ascher is a good film maker. His first film, Room 237, is a fascinating look at the different ways people can view the same piece of art, in this case it's Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The film wasn't as great as it could have been, though: instead of focusing on, say, how one person views it as a movie about domestic abuse vs. someone who sees it as a metaphor for the ravages of alcoholism, you get a bunch of out there people spouting theories that range from "The Shining is Stanley Kubrick's apology to the people of the First Nations for the way they've been treated" to "Danny wears an Apollo 11 sweater because Kubrick was trying to admit that he faked the moon landing". What I will say about the film is that it finds a brilliant way to go about the documentary. Instead of having a room full of talking head and a few reenactments, Ascher decides to tell these peoples stories and evidence (which really boils down to them being pretentious enough that they think it was impossible for Kubirck to make a mistake/continuity error/anachronism) using clips from the Shining and other Kubrick films. Because of this style and, being honest, the charm of the talking heads, I gave the movie a recomendation, knowing that Ascher was going to turn the corner and make a great movie pretty soon.
The Nightmare is that great film, and if its in your area, see it. Though don't see it alone, you won't want to be alone after you see this. In the film Ascher opts for traditional interviews with eight people (from very separate geographical locations) who all suffer from a disorder known as Sleep Paralysis. What is sleep paralysis? the film never explains in full, and never has a mededical expert lend his expertese. From what I understood, its a disorder where you wake up, but the chemical in your brain that stops you moving while asleep and the REM cycle are still in effect, cuasing the twin terrors of having a waking nightmare and not being able to move during it. Through these interviews, you can clearly see the negative effects this has on there life. Whether it be paranoia, lack of sleep, you can see just how much they are suffering (another point brought up is they can still feel pain during these bouts). Another interesting aspect of the film is that these people, who live states and sometimes countries apart, all experience a similar sort of hallucination: that of being terrorized by beings called shadow people, seen through reenactments. I want people to see this movie, so I'll stop there to save from spoilers.
On the technical side of things, the reenactments of the waking nightmares are a standout in this film. They are terrifying, shot in a surreal, point of view type of way that really ups the fear factor. You feel what these people are feeling. In one case a man describes how he could only watch, and feel, as what looks like a claw machine massacres his groin. The accompanying reenactment will unnerve guys in the room to there core. Then this movie falls off a cliff, leaving me to wonder if any of these were true stories.
But I am willing to overlook a huge flaw if a movie accomplishes what it sets out to do. This movie was intended to frighten this audience. I watched this movie in a crowded library, on a computer, in broad daylight, and I still couldn't get to sleep that night.
As far as I know, the movie has not been picked up for distribution yet. However, it can be found on Documentary HD's Youtube page. Do yourself a favor and check it out.